How Tinder Taught Me Authenticity

Be Yourself.  You have to live with you forever.

“Huh?” I mumbled to my 32-year-old, red headed Tinder date, making some half-assed effort at attempting a delay in response while reassuring her I was listening. I had displayed unbreakable eye contact to falsely signify my commitment to unwavering attentiveness. Attention? Yes, she had captivated my complete and undivided attention an hour earlier when she outlined, in detail, her life interests and hobby preferences. I had found them slightly abnormal, definitively unsettling, but amusing nonetheless. I was baffled by what she had told me considering I had proposed, “Tinder is like the clearance section at the store…nobody wanted it, so they put it back there.” Even so, she persisted to prove the accuracy of it, confirming my inability in belief that these dates could get any worse.

But none of this was a shock.

None of it, especially the complete disregard of anything my date said. This was usually due to the set of fabrications I was concocting for the cover story to conceal the fact I was a burnt out, unemployed drug addict in sober living with no definitive of promising plans for future retirement. This time it wasn’t the lying that found me inattentive, though. The truth is that I hadn’t been listening since she disclosed her sexual preferences; an insatiable desire to dress up like a child and play house until some unsuspecting victim was lured into playing “Dad,” and tying her up to have his way with her. Not like “Daddy,” I mean like, “father.” I had no idea if her “father,” had done this but was certain that I was out of my depth on this one. If it was true, I wanted to ask how “Dad” was fairing with the boys “upstate,” because he clearly wasn’t around anymore. I had so many questions I wanted answered. But, most importantly was the big question that kept popping up.

Was I going to compromise my dignity to sleep with her?

As she continued, I tried to recall the other personal information she had provided as I was simultaneously outlining a cost/benefit analysis that was continually interrupted with her obnoxious probing questions, testing my listening abilities. I wasn’t listening but saw that I was definitively above her sexual category and if not, outside of it at the very least. Nevertheless, I needed to be sure that if I was going to “stoop” to a level of sexual conduct and depravity that included the use of a doll house and “incest role play,” that I was going to be able to live with myself after, untraumatized. After all of the lying, manipulating, and ignoring I had exerted and along with the level of energy it required, absent a payoff, I concluded that although I was concerned and uninterested, I was still willing to go back to her place…doll house and all. So, mid-sentence I verbalized my sentiments, stating, “Look, you’re super weird and the more you tell me the less likely I am to go home with you. So, let’s just go now, yeah?

Just like that.

Without a second’s delay she was up from that table and halfway out that front door with me. I knew at that moment I had made a terrible decision. She was so eerily comfortable being abnormal that I started wishing I had told her the truth about the sober living and how uncomfortable this was now making me. But, that ship had sailed, and I didn’t want to look insecure about it. What I really meant was, “I don’t want to look inconsistent or dishonest,” as if I hadn’t been already. This “consistency” was so important to me that I was willing to explore the doll house.

Everyone has a rough streak.

Looking back on the dating record I held over those 3 months and the quantity of time and money I spent “boosting” on Tinder, I was relatively disappointed with the results. The dates I had been on were either forgetfully awful or substantially awkward; enough to make your skin crawl. Unfortunately, when I would settle on and take home one of my dates, the sexual encounters didn’t offer much of a redeeming value. To clarify, when I say take home I mean to their house, not mine. I was in sober living and temporarily suspended from my job. So, with no money and just enough freedom for a privileged Wi-Fi connection and 11 p.m. curfew, Tinder was the resident favorite extracurricular activity.

My dates didn’t need to know this though, obviously.

Which is why none of this made any sense. Why was I ending up with the worst dates? I didn’t understand what I had done to the universe to deserve this horrible streak of uncomfortable and forcibly awkward dates that usually had me rapidly manufacturing the exact set of circumstances, backstory, and persuasion necessary for the desired result; listening to them as little as possible, getting them to like my fictional character, and persuading them that sleeping with me was an opportunity, quite the opportunity. They got more and more awkward the more I went on like this.

The conclusion of “doll house girl.”

I bet you can’t wait to hear the end of this catastrophe. I can’t believe I’m going to say this out load on here and you’re going to read it and associate this story with me forever. It’s so mortifying that it left a temporary scar mark on me. So, here goes.

I hung my head down as we continued walking from the table up to the front door, realizing that I was, once again, not getting what I was looking for in a woman, let alone a sort of minimum level of expectation left unfulfilled. We approached my car and I opened the door, as if I was doing the walk of shame already and pleading guilty to a crime I hadn’t even committed yet. That’s when I heard a chuckle, followed by, “No…I’m not going to f*** you! Thanks for dinner though and I hope you find what you’re looking for. Have a great night.”

I was stunned.

She wasn’t letting me in that dollhouse. Not even for an incest fantasy that I wanted nothing to do with. Usually this type of thing wouldn’t bother me at all if I didn’t take everything personally always and overanalyze it. Therefore, I took it so personally that I started to believe this must be penance for some shit Karma that I deserved! This was a huge blow to my ego. More importantly though, my method had stopped working effectively. Actually, it hadn’t even stopped because it’d never started working. I didn’t get it. I wouldn’t say I thought I was attractive, but ugly was a stretch and the stories I told, although false, sounded convincing enough for anyone to believe. Anyone that is, but me.

A misperception of authenticity and Tinder.

My initial description of Tinder and the clearance section had failed to include a spot for, well, me. Either all of my dates were horrible, or I was horrible to all of my dates. When she said, “I hope you find what you’re looking for,” she wasn’t referring to the optimism of my next Tinder date. She was hoping that I’d find my identity before I found another victim to hold hostage on a date. I was consumed with what I needed to say in order to trick her into sleeping with a fake version of whatever character I was playing that night. I was motivated only by a selfish outcome in my favor and hadn’t listened to anything she had said…until mentioning her sexual preference, obviously.

While I was evaluating whether I was going to “stoop” that low to get laid, I had ignored her while she was displaying her authenticity. She was comfortable enough with herself to openly talk about her sexual preferences and I judged her on it, categorizing it as weird or abnormal. Who was I to judge that? When I finally concluded that I would partake in an uncomfortable sexual fantasy just to get laid, I had again displayed my lack of authenticity. I didn’t have enough spine to honestly admit that I wasn’t picking up what she was putting down and instead was overly concerned with the validation of my self-worth through sex…even though this particular sexual situation was making me insecure, anyway. While she was comfortable being weird, I was uncomfortable and busy trying to be cool or normal, so she would like me. When one is insecure, the sole option is to embrace external validation because of an inability to embrace themselves. She recognized this and was repelled by it.

So, who was the real loser in the situation?

Was it the her with the “abnormal” sexual fantasy she wanted fulfilled and her ease announcing it; or was it the guy without identity that was proficient in manipulation and deceit but lacked enough confidence or self-respect to turn down sex he was awkward with; and all in the name of validation? I can assure you that any girl sleeping with me during that period of time was doing it out of either selfishness or self-pity but certainly not for any type of “opportunity,” or how for “what a great guy,” I was. Please note that there were no second dates or even, “second night mistakes,” after they had made the first one. Although I wish I understood the value of this lesson much earlier in life, it requires great discomfort for me to muster enough willingness to change.

Ultimately, I commenced to develop the essentials for an authentic self. It became clear to me that the quality and health of a significant other was usually proportionate to their partner. It is an identical match of self-worth and a mirror image of self-respect. Those who are authentic don’t let social or emotional circumstance dictate or influence their beliefs, values or actions.

Self-esteem + Self-worth + Self-respect = Authenticity

It is the greatest feeling in the world when authenticity is achieved. When you know that you have worked tirelessly to establish the self-esteem necessary to walk around with your head held high. When you’ve developed a scale of your self-worth, you’ve determined that its value is immeasurable. When you’ve attained a sense of self-worth, you’ve really attained the absolute certainty that there’s never a reason for you to feel inferior because you interpret value as more…priceless! When you know self-respect, you know the importance of always treating yourself as lovingly as you’d expect from the most compassionate partner. How can you expect someone else to treat you respectfully if you can’t even respect yourself?

When you know the satisfaction of peace with yourself and apart from anyone else, you appreciate only authentic companionship as you journey through life. You finally know the highest form of self-acceptance. Genuine authenticity is achieved when one has accepted themselves to the fullest extent; making peace with who they were in order to become content with who they are now. They are comforted with a true harmony of total mind, body, and spirit.

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